Wednesday, October 29, 2008

4-year-olds: Such Literal Creatures

Now that Zach and Allie are 4, their vocabulary is exploding. Every so often one of them will shoot off a word I'd never heard them use before.

And they pull it off so casually. Sometimes they might be stuck on a word for several days or weeks.

Lately Allie is telling me that everything is being done "perfectly."

"Mommy, I can fold up my blankie and it will fit perfectly in my purse."

"Mommy, these socks go perfectly with my dress."

"Mommy, it will work out perfectly if I help you make dinner."

But while their word usage is mushrooming, we were recently reminded that 4-year-olds only hear the literal meaning of things -- and to their ears, an everyday expression can sometimes be scary.

Both Zach and Allie have been sick the past week. It hit Zach first; he endured an ear infection and wickedly hot fever. At one point as he spent the afternoon hugging the couch watching movies, I reached over to get a feel of his forehead.

"You're burning up," I told him.

A look of horror swept over Zach's face. Then he looked down at his arms and legs.
"No, I'm not," he said indignantly.

Then last night it was Allie's turn. She's had a fever and some sort of stomach bug. She slithered into our bed at about midnight, requesting frequent drinks of water and ice packs.

At one point when she was lying down -- and, I had assumed asleep -- Brett felt her forehead and uttered a variation of that trio of words.

"She's burning up."

This time Allie darted upright and yelled out, "I am?!" as if he was telling her she's on fire. Poor thing.

"No, no, sweetie. We just mean you have a fever and your body is hot."

She quickly got comfortable again and returned to her slumbers.

I think she understood. Perfectly.

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